You survived being a first time parent and learned lots of new skills! Now, what do you need to know to prepare for your second baby? You have probably figured out some of the basics such as washing newborn clothes, checking out your nursing bra selection and cleaning up your breastpump. If your older baby is still in a crib, you may have started the transition to sleeping in a regular bed. You’ve also probably started talking to your other child about having a new baby on the way.
Before baby arrives
Reading stories such as The Berenstain Bears “New Baby” was a favorite at our house. A three year old toddler will be able to grasp the concept of a new baby coming much better than a two year old. It can be helpful to let them feel the baby moving in your tummy and let them “talk” to their new sibling. Showing your child pictures of them as a baby is a great way to bring up how much a newborn baby sleeps, nurses and cries. Seeing pictures of them being held as a baby will help them understand how much a baby is held and how much attention they need.
Discuss what a big helper an older sibling can be. They can talk and sing to the baby, get diapers and wipes, and bring mom her water bottle. Provide opportunities to visit relatives and friends with smaller babies, especially other babies that are breastfeeding. If your other child is no longer nursing, explain how mom will be making milk for the new baby and how baby will be breastfeeding. If the child is still nursing, explain how the baby will need to nurse first and more often since they are not able to eat food like your older child can! An older child may have seen other babies getting a bottle instead of breastfeeding, so take this opportunity to explain that nursing is the natural way to feed a baby.
Once you’re home from the hospital
After you bring your baby home, you will find you have a spare hand while breastfeeding as opposed to bottlefeeding. This allows you to wipe a runny nose or take care of other toddler needs. In return, your toddler can help you by fetching your phone or TV remote. You may need to have a gate or a closed door to corral your toddler and prevent them from getting into trouble while you are tied up with nursing. It is very helpful to have some toys, blocks, coloring books or puzzles that you only bring out while nursing. They will consider this a special treat! You can also have your other child sit next to you on the couch and read books. Baby will get a full tummy and your toddler will get some mom-time!
Getting your rest is very important
Your toddler’s nap time is your time to rest as well and should not be used for getting caught up on household chores. This is the time to lower your standards of a perfectly clean house. Dad can help with that when he gets home from work! If you need to rest and your toddler is not ready for a nap, you can shut the door and lay on the floor or couch and let them play with some toys on their own or perhaps watch a favorite video.
There’s plenty of love to go around
Toddlers can feel jealous or somewhat neglected with all the attention a baby needs. Telling them you love them and giving lots of hugs takes minimal time and energy on your part. When someone compliments the baby’s appearance, tell your toddler what a great smile they have or pretty eyes. Give lots of positive reinforcement when they get a diaper for you or are being helpful. Try not to blame everything on the baby like “the baby kept me up all night and I am too tired” or “the baby needs to eat so we can’t play right now”. Instead, say things like “my hands are busy now” or “I can play with you in a few minutes”. Also, instead of telling the child “no” all the time, it’s important to demonstrate correct behavior.
Ask for help, find a routine, and bring your patience
If grandma and grandpa are available, this is a great time for them to spend quality one on one time with your toddler. They can take a walk to the park, go for an ice cream treat or just sit and read some books. You may be tempted to keep your child home from daycare but they do much better keeping their regular routine and being able to go play with their friends. Make sure you get your nap in before they come home because they will want to tell you about their day. It is very common for toddlers to have regressions when bringing a new baby home. If they were doing well with potty training and suddenly have more accidents, be patient with them and understand they will improve with more time.
Enjoy this time
Other children, especially little girls, like to imitate their mom. She probably already has some of her own dolls to play with and you may notice she pulls up her shirt to “breastfeed her baby” just like she sees mom doing. Your little boy might be checking out your breastpump and trying to figure out how that works. This is an exciting and fun time in your life to see how your older children enjoy the experience of being an older brother or sister. Stress to them what an important job they have which will help them adjust to their new role.
If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to give me a call or send me an email.
Diane Erdmann RN BSN IBCLC
Breastfeeding Support & Supplies